“Grow a pair”

A male long-time colleague told me this in response to my complaint about another male colleague who kept interrupting me in meetings and hijacking the conversation.

When our group held a conference call before our first in-person meeting we talked about how we could work best together. I said I’d like a ground rule that we not interrupt each other and we had a respectful exchange of ideas. Everyone agreed.

During our first fact-to-face meeting, the newest member of our group ignored this ground rule. I thought I’d give him a little grace since he was the new guy and perhaps he was trying to show he could offer as much as the rest of us veterans.

 But after he continued this behavior in the second meeting, I vowed not to be as generous with him. He needed to be reminded of our ground rules. I decided to talk to him privately after the meeting, but he disappeared immediately afterwards.

 The aforementioned veteran colleague asked how I felt the new guy was fitting in with our group. I expressed my frustration by his numerous interruptions of me and his taking over. That’s when the “grow a pair” comment was uttered. He said I should interrupt New Guy back.

I got angry at my veteran colleague for chastising me instead of reinforcing our group’s agreements. I replied, “We all agreed to the group rules. I think interrupting and hijacking are disrespectful. Why should I have to engage in behaviors I think are demeaning of others and lower myself to his standards?”

My colleague said that was just how it worked and I needed to play the game if I wanted to be heard.

I’ve read that women tend to interrupt men much less than men interrupt women. I know that being an alpha is a way to be perceived as bold and powerful. But I also know that bullying and disrespectful behaviors are a way to quickly lose any following or cooperation. While I’m assertive, I don’t believe in stooping to behaviors I find offensive.

Interestingly, there was another woman and another man on our committee. Both of them were respectful in their communication and didn’t interrupt. They, too, found New Guy annoying.

Have you had to work with colleagues who ignored group agreements? Have you had others who made you wrong for not wanting to ignore those agreed-upon ground rules? Tell us your story. 

2 thoughts on ““Grow a pair””

  1. Hi Rebecca –
    Your situation is one sadly all professionals have had to deal with. I learned long ago, if I am supposed to hold a spot at that table, I need to be ready to hold my own in debates and duscussions. When we as a team agree interrupting is not going to be accepted, every team member has the.right and obligation to keep the discussions flowing in a manner we all agreed. However, I have had to more often than not be the one to remind others of the rules. It often strengthens my position as others then look to me to raise the othet tough issues as they arise too. I don’t view it as growing a pair. I view it as earning the right to stay at that table.

  2. Remember Deborah Tannen’s (“He Said, She Said”) research showing that women use communication to bond, while men use it to establish hierarchy. Sounds like what that guy was doing.

    Keeping in mind the old adage that people behave toward you the way you let them, perhaps you might prepare a firm-but-gentle response pointing out his rude behavior, and tell him once offline and the next time in front of everyone. I saw a story (http://tinyurl.com/3htlebc) about a woman who punched a bear to save her dog. Forceful actions don’t always work with bullies, but often they do.

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